First Impressions and Second Thoughts - Week 7

Sadly, I didn't get to watch as much match action as I usually do this past weekend.  I saw all of ManYoo @ Sunderland, I saw much of Citeh vs. NUFC, and I moved quickly through Arsenal @ Chelsea to get a sense of the biggest match of the weekend.  Of course, despite having to be at the office for most of the weekend, I did manage to follow along via BBC text casts so it isn't like I'm entirely ignorant of what went on elsewhere.  I just didn't see it all (or at least most of it) for myself on TV.  Here are some random thoughts from the weekend that was in the Premier League - some specifically targeted at fantasy managers and some more general observations about the league and its players:

  • The Title Race - What can you say other than that it looks pretty well over at this point.  This is certainly the point where the realists in the crowd say "there's still a long way to go and anything could happen" and that's true.  That said, unless something major happens like Drogba being sidelined for an extended period just after the close of the January transfer window, it's hard to see anyone capable of catching Chelsea.  They ruthlessly dispense with teams who are clearly inferior and are one Tevez shot that found its way through ACole's legs from having shut out Arsenal and Citeh in consecutive weeks.  Not really much there to lead you to believe that things won't continue to script for them until May.
  • The Race for Second - The real question we're left with in the wake of Arsenal getting one point from their last three matches and ManYoo only getting two points from two extremely win-able road matches in the last two weeks is "who is the odds on favorite for 2nd place?"  Before the WBA capitulation at the Emirates you'd have said Arsenal by a fairly wide margin but the last three weeks has dropped the stocks of Arsenal and ManYoo while seeing Citeh's rebound and that of Spurs at least stabilize.  Here's my quick handicapping of the race for second given what we know right now (in predicted order of finish):
    • Citeh - There is lots of upside from these factors: Hart is awesome, there is a ton of attacking talent, they're still figuring out how to play together so they should get better, most of their first choice defenders are close to coming back from injury, if they're missing something they can certainly buy in January.  Not much downside other than the fact that they haven't really scored much despite their attacking talent and have dropped points to teams that aren't as talented.
    • Arsenal - There is some upside from these factors: There is almost an entire Starting XI including the best three or four players on the team who will be coming back, there are goals to be found from a lot of places, there should be at least some money to make solid acquisitions in January (a keeper?).  That said, there is downside in the fact that the injury issues aren't new and there's nothing to say that they won't persist AND that Wenger has stubbornly avoided spending on a top keeper despite having the money to spend.
    • ManYoo - There is upside in that Rooney can't keep sucking this badly for an entire season and the defense should be stabilized by the return of Rio/benching of Evans.  That said, there doesn't seem to be much money to improve a decidedly average/old core of central midfielders.  Honestly, the only reason I put them above Spurs on this list is I trust SAF and the muscle memory of Scholes/Giggs/Neville/Rio/Rooney to win when they have to to keep themselves in the Champions League.
    • Spurs - With the emergence of van der Vaart and the continued excellent play of Bale, a large cast of above-average-but-not-great supporting cast members and the return-to-health of Gomes in the net there is reason to think that Spurs will improve on a bad start to the season.  The downside is that we don't know how VDV and Bale will react to the biggest of stages that will determine if they can beat out ManYoo (or Arsenal) to that final Champions League spot.  For me, it comes down to this - who do I think will crumble first if things are close at the end of the season for 4th, SAF? Arsene? or 'arry?  Seems like an obvious one to me.
  • The Wolves Story - Sadly, this once-optimistic tale of grit combining with just enough style to make things interesting has devolved rapidly into one that focused entirely on Wolves' propensity for brutality.  As the Yellows continue to pile up and a small stack of Reds that did or easily could have led to serious injuries emerges I'm having more and more trouble staying positive about Wolves.  Here's hoping that the return of Stephen Hunt and the enforced absence of Henry will combine to create a slight change of attitude and a return to some positive results.  If the current pace persists, they will be relegated with no remorse from anyone (except perhaps our two stalwart Wolves followers on our Saturday Live Chats) for their leaving.
  • The Newly Promoted - Blackpool was my sleeper pick of the weekend last weekend (really, anyone playing Liverpool right now qualifies though) and they are continuing to look very much at home in the top flight.  Really amazing since their players were anonymous and they were widely fancied to be Derby dreadful.  You can bet every dollar you have that Charlie Adam will be playing in the top flight for a long time regardless of Blackpool's eventual fate this season.  WBA remains in an even more elevated spot after a slightly disappointing home draw with Bolton.  The amazing thing is that the draw was something of a disappointment.  Basically, the headline here is that the amazing journey continues for both of these sides.
  • Who Will Go Down? I know the obvious story for the reactionary media to write on Monday was that Liverpool COULD REALLY go down but here's the thing, that's a bunch of cr@p.  Same with Everton - there is just too much talent on both teams for their current slumps to last all season.  If you had to ask me to guess right now who the fallen will be at the end of the year, I'd go with three Ws - Wigan, Wolves, and West Ham.  That said, there hasn't been any real separation between the middle of the table and the bottom - a single win from even 20th place West Ham and they'd appear comfortably clear of relegation by next week.  Still, taking talent, trajectory, and managerial confidence into consideration those would be my best guesses as of right now - not a ton of upside or obvious sources of money to change their circumstances over the second half of the season.
  • Drogba - As I mentioned for the last two weeks, you drop him at your own peril - especially when Arsenal is the opponent.  The people who were looking good last week for having dropped him against Citeh are the same ones who I moved past in the standings this weekend when Drogs did his thing.
  • Adam - He just keeps churning out the performances.  He certainly isn't going to be a candidate for Player of the Year but he certainly should be a candidate for best newcomer or player who far exceeded even our wildest expectations.
  • VDV - Has quickly become the driving force behind Spurs - where would they be if his last second transfer had missed by a few seconds instead of having made it in under the wire.  Taking that point further, if he is clearly the difference between Spurs making it back into the Champions League in 4th place instead of another club, would that club be justified in calling for an investigation into the propriety of the timing of his transfer? No one has said anything yet but just remember that you heard it here first when you see the headlines in April or May.  For those not aligned with a club likely to be involved in a potential controversy, what do you think? Potential scandal similar to Tevez and the relegation zone a few seasons back? Or nothing worth thinking about?
  • Odemwingie - He didn't score but he did get an assist and if that was a down weekend, I'll take it
  • Dempsey - One of the reasons I'm sort of down on one of my favorite real life players as a fantasy player is that he doesn't tend to get a ton of phantom points.  If you'll recall the KJones/Chamakh/Carroll comparison last week, Dempsey fits into similar space as an attacking midfielder.  He doesn't tend to shoot a ton or cross the ball and therefore even when he comes through with a goal like he did this past weekend, the output isn't THAT great.  On the weekends where he doesn't score, you end up spending between 10 and 12 for 5 or 6 points of production.  This is why we like guys who take kicks.  Just remember this as you continue to see Dempsey as a midfielder lining up at striker. 
  • Carroll - Seems he must have hit something of a wall because he's gone from hat trick hero to not guaranteed to start in pretty short order.  
  • De Jong - There are two ways to look at him right now.  The obvious way - he's a dirty player who consistently aims to injure or even maim (as he did to Ben Arfa this past weekend) and he should be banned.  The more subtle way is that maybe there's a reason that Drogba and Malouda looked so out of sorts against Citeh two weekends ago.  Maybe they didn't think it was worth it to go full out and risk crossing the path of Mr. de Jong.  I'm certainly not advocating for the type of play that leaves players with broken limbs or cleat marks on their chests but if I were building a team and wanted to give myself the best chance to win, I'd certainly want someone who was a huge deterrent in front of my defenders.  Was Roy Keane really any less "committed" in his day? Was he any less reckless? Have we allowed his mis-deeds to fade into history in favor of remembering him as the captain of a frequently decorated team that was generally the best in England during his prime? I hate to ask the question but is there an element of racism or prejudice against foreigners at work here where we let Keane off as passionate/committed/hard while condemning De Jong as cheap/dirty.  I'm not saying that they are exactly equivalent or that I support De Jong but it seems reasonable to ask whether a different standard is being applied to the two players.  


  1. Kellz4:57 PM

    Probably the most spot on and critical look at the De Jong situation I have read, spanning not only yahoo, but from Skysports to Guardian. Its another angle that doesn't immediately jump on either side (like most people have done).

    Another great read, as a Liverpool fan, I have to ask myself, are we really this BAD? Can we even turn this slump around, especially with a VERY difficult task facing us at Goodison.

    My question to you Jeremy/Neal (with holding my opinion until I hear yours): Do you believe Roy Hodgson is right for Liverpool and can he pull Liverpool out of their worst start since 1954?

  2. Gavin5:13 PM

    Right there with you, Kellz. It's tough to see a team anybody would be proud to call themselves a fan of (based on results, not locale) fall so far so quickly.

    If I may provide my opinion on the Hodgson question, I had a lot of faith in the manager to give the Liverpool players the lift they needed to kickstart their campaign after last season's disappointment. However, the more I look at the tactics he's employed and how he's had the team lining up (Kuyt at striker with Torres and Meireles at right wing?), the more the timing of Martin O'Neill's dismissal from Aston Villa frustrates me. I think O'Neill would have better fit the mold at Anfield, but like any good Liverpool fan, I'll walk with my team no matter the circumstances. Hodgson has the experience and the credentials to turn the club around with a little help. Hopefully the club will be sold before January and we can see just how much of a negative influence Hicks & Gillett have been.


  3. I don't understand Roy's transfer policy or team selection.

    We've had the Liverpool discussion in depth:

    Bloggers of the Round Table - Liverpool Discussion

  4. Neal, it is very generous of you that you haven't made Manchester United a relegation candidate!

  5. Neal - I'm shocked that you would even state that the title is over, it is definitely too early to make that statement. Wait till Drogba gets injured and lets see if Anelka can produce as much as him.

    Come on, lets be honest, Chelsea beat a toothless Arsenal! and it doesn't mean they deserve it more than any other team after only 7 games played. The title decider this season, imo, will come down to the face to face between teams...i.e, Chelsea vs. Manchester United. Also Manchester City have a good shout at getting up there if they can only show some real consistency.

    Just one more pt. and I'm done...if Rooney was on form like he was the first half of last season, Manchester United would be on top. Just wait till he comes back and we'll see how the game unfolds.

  6. If a frog had wings... ;-)

  7. Well it's a long shot for Manchester United, but it's definitely too early to count them out. If they can stay within 5 pts. off Chelsea by January, there's a shot.

    I guess the point I was trying to make is that Chelsea have not faced another team at their prime, same applies to City as well.

    All the horses have left the tracks, but not all are running at full speed.

  8. i agree with Saul, how can you call the season with so few games played? chelsea are the favorites sure, but done and dusted? no way. i'm as shocked as Saul that anyone would say this. anything can happen. the core of the squad ain't exactly spring chickens, age has to eventually start catching up with them as the busy season progresses. I could see some critical injuries derailing their "sure thing" title.

    I think with VDV, he's been amazing. But seems players new to the league always come out guns a blazing to prove themselves and have a certain cooling off period. i could see him fading back to the semi decent player he always has been. you can't really argue with the performances he's put in so far, they've been spectacular, but how can we assume he would continue that blistering pace? was he that good before?

  9. Anonymous11:32 PM

    I sold Drogba in the BD in a rush of blood to bring in the likes of Berbatov and Arshavin for next week since Drogba is playing away to Villa. I had him at around 22m. Was that very foolish to offload him? I'm trying to be ruthless this year. I will more than likely buy him back again next week.

  10. Kellz1:25 AM

    @Jeremy: Yes read it over the summer, I am more talking about you thoughts after seeing Roy and Liverpool over these 7 games. Now we have had a taste of what it could be like under him.

  11. richard_pitts_20005:28 AM

    Anon @ 11:32 - I dropped Droggers for the African Cup of Nations last season and spent the rest of the season regretting it.

    Will the injury to Ben Afra open the way for Caroll? Could well be good for Barton as the remaining creative midfielder.

    I hate international weekends, particularly as I'm Scottish :-D

  12. Chris Jones7:57 AM

    I've never been called a stalwart before!!!

  13. Richard_Pitts - HBA's injury should allow Guttierez to return to the starting line-up. Though I also expect Carroll to regain his place.

  14. "I hate to ask the question but is there an element of racism or prejudice against foreigners at work here where we let Keane off as passionate/committed/hard, while condemning De Jong as cheap/dirty."

    As far as i'm aware, Keane was seen as cheap and dirty by most people. Keane in fact was not only as bad as De Jong, he was perhaps worse.

    I don't understand where your opinion that we all see Keane as passionate/committed/hard has come from, and that racism or prejudice might be at work while we condemn De Jong.

    A player that has intention to injure another player is an idiot, therefore Nigel De Jong is an idiot, and Roy Keane is also, an idiot.

    As for the title, if Arsenal don't sure up their defense pretty damn quickly, Man U don't start finding some form, and Mancini doesn't start getting a bit more adventurous, i too can see only one winner this season.

    Lot's of ifs and buts there though, as we all know, anything can happen. One or Two unfortunate injuries and a good run of form could see everything change in a matter of weeks.

    Nice article guys!

  15. liverpool hav no where going if he is playing gerrard in the role of mascherano every match...when rafa was there we curse how he played gerrard in wrong positions...surprisingly with roy i hear no one saying the same...but its obvious..gerrard should not be playing behind cole, kuyt or mierless...check the many goals for liverpool has gerrard been involved in...ALMOST ALLLLLLLLLLLL...imagine if he were playing where we all know he plays best

  16. Anonymous4:56 PM

    City dropped points to Birmingham and Sunderland, less talented opposition, (a Toure/Hart misunderstanding and a tevez miss), in much the same way that Chelsea dropped points to City, less talented opposition... Chelsea probably will win the league but it will be a lot closer if they have any injuries or lost form - against City they had to replace Drogba with Sturridge and Ramires with MacEachran.

    Why do you keep on with the 'Citeh' stuff btw? It's embarrassing to read.

  17. just a quick point. chelsea don't have the depth in many of the positions that arsenal does. it doen't have to be drogba that goes down. get a few defenders and a few midfielders and drogba's goals will dry up. chelsea is lucky that everyone else is misfiring or injured because this team is a year older and less deep.

  18. Anonymous9:34 AM

    "Have we allowed his mis-deeds to fade into history in favor of remembering him as the captain of a frequently decorated team that was generally the best in England during his prime? I hate to ask the question but is there an element of racism or prejudice against foreigners at work here where we let Keane off as passionate/committed/hard while condemning De Jong as cheap/dirty."

    I do believe this is the case. I think most people have forgotten about Roy Keane, or players like Ben Thatcher, Eric Cantona, Joey Barton, to name but a few.

    I also think most people only seem to look at the result of the tackle, not the actual tackle. I have spoken to some Toons and they all shared the same opinion, the tackle was rough, but it seemed like a fair tackle and an unfortunate accident. Keegan himself said it as well.

    This whitch hunt on De Jong is ridiculous and out of order. Yes, he was central in Holden's injury and it was a stupid challenge. Yes, his kick on Alonso's chest was a shock (although I believe he was aiming for the ball, something which you don't see in the slow-mo, as the ball had already bounced away), but this tackle is totally different and not related to any of the others.

    Zamora and Valencia both got injured in similar tackles. Freak accidents. Aaron Ramsey was another case of an accident. Nobody seems to care about Henry's tackle, which could have had so much worse effect than Ben Arfa's injury. Heck, Henry's tackle could have ripped off Gomez's leg. Coloccini and Tiote both were in some questionable tackles in the City game, but hypocritically, nobody seems to even remember those, as apperantly only the result of the tackle matters, instead of the actual tackle. I believe Milner (I believe it was him) narrowly avoided Tiote's lunge that could have caused some serious damage.

    The hunt on de Jong is a sad thing. Considering Nolan caused heavy damage on Anichebe, the comments from Enrique are just laughable. How can someone say something when your own teammate did the same thing? Heck, when you have Joey Barton on the team even?

    It is also sad to see that people seem to pretend they know de Jong and keep insinuating he's out to injure/hurt people. Really? Did he tell you? No he didn't. Stop assuming you know, based on 3 incidents. Sure, they happened relatively in short succession, however, he has been playing for a few years now. How many other incidents can you name?